Theatre show explores the mental anguish of waiting for a return phone call

In the 'hello, can you call me back?' interactive show, theatregoers will get a missed call from the performers and they can choose to call back to engage in a conversation. Photo: Jazzie Lee Jin Jye

This weekend, six theatre performers will be waiting for the phone to ring and for someone to be there for them. They are having a bad day, and being confined to their bedroom isn’t doing them any favours. Will you pick up the phone and lend them a listening ear?

Or you could also choose not to call.

Hello, can you call me back? is a six-hour "participative exhibition" that explores the emotions of loneliness and anxiety while waiting for someone important to call back. Presented by independent performing arts company lowercase laboratories, this show features actors - Ashvinder Kaur, Dexter Zhen, Dinesh Kumar, Mia Sabrina Mahadir, Murasaki Haru and Putrina Rafie - each leading an hour of the show in a bedroom setting.

Theatregoers will get a missed call from the performers and they can choose to call back to engage in a conversation.

“This project is deeply personal for both the performers and me as the director, as it stems from my own experiences with anxiety and the coping mechanisms that helped me manage it. The inspiration for the project came from a particularly difficult argument with my partner, which left me spiralling and overthinking while waiting for them to call me back," says show director Low Yee Choy.

"I have an anxious attachment style, which comes with a constant need for reassurance. But I realise that I needed to be more independent and find ways to manage my anxiety on my own, which led me to start practicing the ukulele and writing down my thoughts when I feel overwhelmed,” he adds.

In hello, can you call me back?, each performer shares a personal story from one of their bad days, inviting the audience to help them cope and turn it into a better day. If attendees call, they can either help the performer achieve the goal of turning it into a good day, or hinder them.

“The basis of the exhibition is watching someone spending time alone in their bedroom. If no one calls, the attendees will then observe how the performers deal with the anxiety of waiting for someone to call them back.

"Each performer will cope with this anxiety in different ways. Attendees will have the freedom to say or ask anything because I want to add an element of unpredictability to the performance and make it more engaging for the audience. This makes each performance unique and different for each run,” says Low.

This show is an eye-opener for Low, who describes the process of working with the performers to discover different ways to deal with the anxiety, as almost therapy-like as it focuses on human behaviour.

“It is a very introspective experience. To know that apart from me, there are people out there who are like me, makes me feel seen,” he concludes.

Hello, can you call me back? is on at Projek Bilik Sempit, Revolution Stage (5-11, Dataran Pelangi Utama One Avenue Jalan Masjid, Jalan PJU 6A/3) in Petaling Jaya, Selangor on March 25 and 26 (4pm to 10pm). The show is for a mature audience and contains strong language. More info here.

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